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The Ambitious April Fool's Joke That Almost Was

©David Daniels

As I post this, we are entering into April Fools' 2012 territory. Believe nothing you read on the web today.

Personally, I love April Fool's. So much so that I would never post one every single year here on Strobist. Oh, I wanna. But I'd worry that we'd fall into that "it's expected" rut as have Google, NPR and the like.

That said, in 2010 I came this close to pulling off a duesy...

There has only been one April Fool's post on this site, in 2008. I had never done so before, but I thought it connected pretty well. A solid double, as the baseball folks would say.

I did nothing in 2009, biding my time for something bigger. And I had no plans to in 2010, until I was heading to bed at about midnight on March 31st and checked my Twitter before going to sleep.


Lemme back up. I had just returned from the United Arab Emirates a couple of weeks before. I knew, but had forgotten, that Joe McNally was heading right back out there to teach a small class in Abu Dhabi. I had not given it a second thought. Then I saw the late-night tweet from a part of the world in which it was already April 1st.

It was by my UAE friend Kholloud, who was tweeting how happy she was to be starting a day-long class with Joe McNally.

Suddenly I was wide awake, considering the possibilities.

1. I have a plant (with real-time coms!) in McNally's class and he does not know it.
2. Kholloud is a perfect plant in that she is beautiful, exotic, smart, funny -- and a pretty darn good photographer in her own right. I am pretty sure we can wrangle her to be in front of McNally's lens.
3. Plus, she is a traditional Emirati woman. And there are, shall we say, cultural issues to consider around the photography of such.

Now the wheels are turning very fast. First step: bring Kholloud in on the idea of a gag. So I do. And she's up for it.

Second, find out if she knows some police officers in Abu Dhabi. She does.

Can she get in touch with them? She's already working on it.

If you are as warped as I am, you can see this coming. Kholloud will be angling to get in front of Joe's camera, subtly but surely. And she will get there. The idea is to have everything converge at that point into one beautiful, Seinfeldian moment.

Picture the scene in Joe's class. Kholloud has been wonderfully cooperative -- even surprisingly open to being photographed. Just when he starts shooting, there's a loud knock at the door. The local police barge in, none too happy at the reports of "illegal photography" of an Emirati citizen. (Or whatever else they could dream up that sounded illegal and scary.)

Kholloud, at this point, does a complete 180, wondering out loud, "Why did it have to be me?" he wanted to photograph, "I wasn't comfortable," blah, blah, blah. You get the picture.

McNally at this point would go into a prevent defense, turning on his world-famous people skills which surely have gotten him out of worse situations than this. Only not this time, Joe. Because whatever he said, the inside joke would be that the exchange would only make things worse.

He would, of course, look to Kholloud for help. Naturally, she would adopt the most strict I DO NOT KNOW this man disposition. Meanwhile I am laughing maniacally 8,000 miles away, waiting for the full post mortem report.

And just as they get Joe to the classroom door (in handcuffs, as he is wondering what, exactly, an Abu Dhabi jail is going to be like) one of the officers would lean in and say, "By the way, David Hobby wanted us to wish you a happy April Fool's Day."

How close did we get to pulling it off? Welp, that's Joe's shot of Kholloud, above. At the moment he shot it, he was completely unaware of the machinations happening in the background.

To Kholloud's credit, she played her part as a angling subject perfectly. But we just could not pull a couple of scary police officers together in time to make it all happen.

Kholloud let him in on our near miss later in the day.

Eight hours behind, I remember getting very little sleep that night, alternating between the glee of launching an epic, intercontinental April Fool's Day prank on Joe -- and wondering what it would be like to spend the rest of my life looking over my shoulder. Because Joe is a very accomplished joker in his own right. And I am pretty sure he has a long memory.

For all I know, he might even feel as if he owes me one just for trying. Heck, it might even be coming today.

And as it happens, today it is me that is a few thousand miles from home. Visiting a city on the west coast in which McNally has a lot of friends.

Am I paranoid? No sir. Not at all. Not even thinking about it. Not one teeny tiny bit.

But just to be safe I am not gonna say what city I am in, either.


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